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The 4 Rudiment Families: Explained

What are Rudiments?

Drum rudiments are the key that unlock every possibility around the drum set, but to put it simply its a pattern that is played with the drum sticks, with many different hand combinations.

Not only does it give you plenty of different options to phrase your drum sounds around the kit, it can help improve your technique, your control of the sticks (or pedals), and most importantly your coordination around the drum set.

Think of rudiments as the Drummers equivalent to learning Scales on a Guitar or Piano, its the tool we use to allow us to get creative on the instrument. A lot of drummers will tell you that its just a “sticking pattern”, but some of these combinations can also be practiced with your feet as well, especially when learning double bass drumming.

How many rudiments are there?

According to the “Percussive Arts Society” there are over 850 rudiments worldwide. Now for any drummer regardless of whether you are a beginner or advanced… thats an absolute ton of rudiments to learn. I think we are in agreement that this is a lifetimes work, especially if we were to go through each rudiment exercise and master each one.

Fortunately P.A.S has selected 40 rudiments which they call the “American Standards”, and this is commonly what people learn today. Vic Firth’s website has an entire section dedicated to these 40 rudiments. If you are looking to make a start on your stick/foot technique this a great learning environment for you to practice.

You can check them out here – Vic Firth’s 40 Essential Drum Rudiments

Of course, there are many different combinations and hybrid rudiments that combines two or more different rudiments together, the possibilities are literally endless!


If you are new to drums you might find that 40 new rudiments may be quite overwhelming, however we can break it down even further to just 4 Groups or families of rudiments.

The 4 Families

All rudiments relate back to these 4 main concepts. By utilising just these 4 main ideas, we will be able to slowly build up our knowledge and evolve our rudiments more and more as we practice.

Here are the 4 families-

  • Rolls – playing evenly spaced notes that consist of Single/Double or Multiple strokes on each hand. You could play a Single Stroke Roll (RLRL RLRL) or a Double Stroke Roll (RRLL RRLL) or Multiple strokes (RRRR LLLL)
  • Diddles – These are similar to playing Double Stroke rolls, in the sense that you would play two evenly spaced notes with the same hand, but i usually like to think of it as a substitute for a value of a note. If you are playing a Quaver (1/8th note) and you “diddle” that Quaver, the speed of the diddle should sound like 2 Semi-Quavers (1/16th notes)
  • Flams – This rudiment has one grace note before the main stroke. These two notes are played very close together. The grace note increases the length of the stroke, but not long enough that it would be counted in time.
  • Drags – This rudiment has two grace notes before the main stroke. Similar to the flam it increases the length of the note without it being counted in time, but it also has a slightly different sound, almost like you’re dragging your drum stick… hence its name!

So there you have it, thats the 4 rudiment families. If you are able to make a start here and work on these 4 main areas, you will be able to evolve your rudiments more and more and come up with all sorts of different combinations that you can orchestrate round the drum set.


Let us know if you have any questions about rudiments in the comments box below.